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Expression of a cyanobacterial Δ6-desaturase gene results in γ-linolenic acid production in transgenic plants


Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a nutritionally important fatty acid in human and animal diets, is not produced in oil seed crops. Many oil seed plants, however, produce significant quantities of linoleic acid, a fatty acid that could be converted to GLA by the enzyme Δ6-desaturase if it were present. As a first step to producing GLA in oil seed crops, we have cloned a cyanobacterial Δ6-desaturase gene. Expression of this gene in transgenic tobacco resulted in GLA accumulation. Octadecatetraenoic acid, a highly unsaturated, industrially important fatty acid, was also found in transgenic tobacco plants expressing the cyanobacterial Δ6-desaturase. This is the first example of engineering the production of ‘novel’ poly-unsaturated fatty acids in transgenic plants.

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Reddy, A., Thomas, T. Expression of a cyanobacterial Δ6-desaturase gene results in γ-linolenic acid production in transgenic plants. Nat Biotechnol 14, 639–642 (1996).

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